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MALAYSIA BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE | Budget, Itinerary, and Accommodation

Malaysia Travel Guide Tioman Island Malaysia

UPDATED DECEMBER 2017 | MALAYSIA BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE | Hello there! A version of this guide is posted on Rappler. You see, Malaysia is often my jumpoff point for my past trips (Indonesia, India, Australia). I’be been there five times already. During my recent 12-day trip, my partner and I spent most of our days in Kuala Lumpur, Mersing, and Tioman Island. That being said, if there are places in Malaysia you plan to visit, shoot me a comment below, I might have a word or two suggestions for you.

I do not know if I should be proud of only spending Php8 000.00 (USD168.00) for a week in Malaysia. I should be, right? Or maybe not. There are some travelers who did not spend any money at all and solely relied on the kindness of strangers. But on the second thought, I should. It was my first trip abroad. And I went solo despite the nervousness and sleeplessness I had experienced.

READ: Packing for my 5-week trip to five countries. It was not easy for a woman who loves #ootd! But no checked-in luggage, yeah!

Observing the self interacting with the foreign place was filled with many realizations, like how different from yet so similar we are with our neighboring countries. But the musing is meant for a long narrative that might take me awhile to write.

So, yeah, what you have read above is true. I spent Php 8, 000.00 for a seven-day trip in Malaysia.  My route was Kuala Lumpur, Taiping, and Cameron Highlands. I supposed to squeeze Sekinchan before heading to Taiping, but I decided to drop it. My so-called itinerary was already too cramped for a week-long trip.


1. Malaysia is a culturally diverse country.

It is a country of the Chinese, Malay, Muslim, and Hindu Malaysians. It is quite interesting to see locals in clothes that depict their own unique culture. This holds truer and more pronounced to the Muslim and Hindu Malaysians.

2. There are two international airports in Kuala Lumpur: KLIA and KLIA 2.

So know where your airline is landing in. The airports are actually just next to each other and are serviced with free airport shuttle.


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Most Budget airlines are operating at KLIA 2.  

AirAsia (AK)

AirAsia X (D7)

AirAsia Indonesia (QZ) AirAsia Zest (Z2)
Thai AirAsia (FD) Cebu Pacific Air (5J) Jetstar Asia (3K) TigerAir / Scoot (TR)

The rest of airlines flying to Kuala Lumpur is operating at KLIA, which is just about five minutes by the free shuttle bus outside the departure hall.

Air France (AF) Air New Zealand (NZ) AirAsia Indonesia (XT) All Nippon Airways (NH) American Airlines (AA)
Bangkok Airways (PG) Batik Air (ID) Cathay Pacific (KA) China Airlines (CI) China Southern Airlines (CZ)
Delta Air Lines (DL) Emirates (EK) Etihad Airways (EY) Eva Air (BR) Finnair (AY)
Firefly (FY) Flynas (XY) Garuda Indonesia (GA) Japan Airlines (JL) Jet Airways (9W)
KLM (KL) Korean Air (KE) Lion Air (JT) Malaysia Airlines (MH) Malindo Air (OD)
Myanmar Airways (8M) Oman Air (WY) Philippine Airlines (PR) Qantas (QF) Qatar Airwyas (QR)
Saudi Arabian Airlines (SV) SilkAir (MI) Singapore Airlines (SQ) SriLankan Airlines (UL) Thai Airways (TG)
Vietnam Airlines (VN) Virgin Australia (VA) Xiamen Airlines (MF)


If you want to know more of other airlines serviced at KLIA, check KLIA’s website. 

3. The official currency is Malaysian Ringgit.

If you travel on a budget, everything is priced in the local currency. So have some ringgit ready. There are several money exchange booths in the airport. Do remember that money changers in airports tend to offer lower rates than the ones you can find in Chinatown or in Kuala Lumpur City. There are many ATMs in the departure and arrival halls in both airports.

Malaysia Travel Guide ATMs at KLIA2

100USD is about 408.35 MYR | 100 € is about 481.95 MYR | 5000Php is about 402 MYR

 Here are the currency exchange counters located at KLIA 2 

Malaysia Travel Guide Money exchange in KLIA2

Screenshot from KLIA’s website

4. KLIA and KLIA 2 are located outside the city.

Depending on your mode of transportation, the travel time greatly varies. The fastest and the most expensive takes 28 minutes and the cheapest and the longest takes an hour or so. The fastest of course is KLIA Ekspres. If you are not in a hurry and you are on a budget, you might want to consider other option, of which you can find below.

Malaysia Travel Guide KLIA Express schedule and fare

KLIA Transit is just ten minutes slower than KLIA Ekspres but as expensive. It has more stops than KLIA Ekspres. Both trains also have Bandar Tasik Selatan as one of thei stops. It is the bus hub of Kuala Lumpur, your gateway to all places in Malaysia. It has buses to Singapore as well.

Malaysia Travel Guide KLIA Transit Schedule and Fare

Travel times between Kuala Lumpur and KLIA

 Malaysia Travel Guide Travel time from KLIA to Kuala Lumpur .jpg


 5. There are now public buses from KLIA 2 to some places in Malaysia.

You can take a bus from the airport to some of the popular destinations of Malaysia if you want to skip Kuala Lumpur City and if you are not tired from your flight. If you want to know the specific schedules of each bus company, click the links.

6. There are four train lines that service around Kuala Lumpur: KL Monorail, Star LRT, Putra LRT, ERL and KTM Komuter

All popular tourist destinations have their corresponding train routes. Ask for a map from your hostel or hotel. They often have free maps available for their guests. All these trains meet at KL Sentral, the largest transit hub in Malaysia. Traveling around Kuala Lumpur by train is the cheapest option you can have. Well, aside from walking. 😉

Malaysia Travel Guide Kuala Lumpur Train Route

7. All buses leaving Kuala Lumpur elsewhere of the country are in the new Bandar Tasik Selatan

Aside from the buses at the airports, all buses to the places I’ve been to and haven’t been to in Malaysia are serviced at Bandar Tasik Selatan. It is a massive public transportation hub, and very efficient at that. Check the train lines that have it in their route. In some cases, you might have to take two trains.

If you want to know the bus schedules and other information about BTS, check BTS’ website. 





1. 2 nights in Kuala Lumpur- 2 Nights in Taiping – 2 nights in Cameron Highlands – 1 night in Kuala Lumpur.  (1st Trip)
2. 2 nights in Kuala Lumpur- 2 Nights in Penang – 2 nights in Penang – 1 night in Kuala Lumpur. (2nd trip)
3. 3 nights in Kuala Lumpur – 2 Nights in Mersing – 3 Nights in Tioman Island – 2 Nights in Endau (3rd Trip)

So it all depends on you what parts in Malaysia you want to explore.

Kuala Lumpur: Why I did not see the Petronas Towers  I Did Already! Been to KL for Four Times Already 

It was a kind of rebellion against travel guides. I wanted to have a different image of Kuala Lumpur. I avoided the Petronas Towers, the landmark of this city. Instead, I walked around with no fixed destinations in mind, except for the moment I decided to go to Batu Caves.

READ: Poor But Want to Travel the World? There is only thing you have to do!

I did not do much in KL except walking. Walking to Chinatowns. Eating in the hawkers food stalls by the streets (our version is the carenderias). Talking with the staff of Raizzy’s Guesthouse. Walking to the bus terminal.

Not much, right? During my second trip, for the heck of it, I rode the train for an hour from one end to the other.

On my third time in the city though, I walked the entire day and ended up in KLCC, where the Petronas Towers are.

Batu Caves

Kuala Lumpur Expenses for 3 Nights:  245.80RM : PHP2800 : USD59.00

DAY 1 DAY 2 Day 7
KL Express – 35 Lunch+Water – 7.50 Breakfast – 14
Monorail – 1.60 Monorail – 3.80 KFC – 7.90
Raizzy’s Guesthouse (2 nights) – 53 Komuter – 2 Water – 1.50
Dinner – 13 (Expensive!) Dinner+Fruit – 14.5 Sunglasses – 10
Water – 2 Massage – 30 Fruit – 5
Reggae’s Guesthouse (Dorm) – 35

READ: Why I did not see the Petronas Towers. I know, right?!

As you may have noticed, I did not really starve myself. I even splurged a 30RM () for a half-hour massage, and I bought a pair of sunglasses. Oh yeah, I had KFC on my last day in KL. As much as I loved Malaysian food, my taste is rather very Filipino, like very.


1. See the Petronas Twin Towers at night.

2. Watch the water show at KLCC Park, located behind Suria KLCC

3. Hike up the stairs at Batu Cave

4. Go shopping in Bukit Bintang, the posh business district in KL

5. Have a meal in Bukit Bintang’s Pavillion’s food court. I haven’t seen a food court like that before. So, have at least one meal down there. Kinda dress up a bit. The hood is posh!

6. Go to Pasar Seni’s Central Market. It is within walking distance from Chinatown Petaling.

7. Visit Indian and Chinese temples. There is a lot of them!

8. Go visit the museum, if not for its artefacts inside then for its lovely Islamic architecture

9. Stuff yourself with Malay, Indian, and Chinese food.

10. Walk around Little India, just outside NU Sentral Mall

11. Try their kopi tarik and kopi panas! We have at least three cups of kopi panas every day!


Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur: Cheapest to the Most Expensive
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur: According to Reviews
Where to Stay in Kuala Lumpur: Recommended

Raizzy’s Guesthouse, a dorm bed starts at 35RM.(Stayed here during my first and second visit). Quite a popular pick among backpackers. If you stay here, from KL Sentral, take the LRT and get off at Pasar Seni, the next stop from KL Sentral.

Ranting Guesthouse, crappy rooms start at 50RM (stayed during my third visit). Shared bathroom. Fan room. It is in the same neighborhood of Raizzy’s Guesthouse. Right in the middle of Chinatown Petaling.

Swiss Cottage Hotel, rooms start at 79RM (stayed here in Feb 2017, rooms with private bathroom, TV, and AC. From KL Sentral, take the train to Putra Heights (brown line) and get off at Titiwangsa.



  • Avoid dining in Chinatowns. Food prices are doubled. Go where the locals eat. You can find a lot of them around.
  • I saved a lot from accommodation. I stayed in dormitories. Raizzy’s Guesthouse is cheaper than Reggae’s Guesthouse. Both are in the same location.
  • Guesthouses provide water. If you have your own drinking bottle, you can actually save by refilling it before heading out

Taiping: Taiping Lake Garden and More

In a world of independent travel itineraries provided by travel bloggers—which were helpful in many ways—I wanted to do something random, going somewhere that does not appeal to many travelers.

READ:  Things I Love about Taiping and more tips here!

After checking Malaysia’s map, I found several places that I have not heard of much: Ipoh, Sekinchan, and Taiping. Places that can be considered the spaces between the popular Point A and the equally touristy B. At Pudung Sentral, the old terminal, (the new terminal is now Terminal Bersepadu Selatan [TBS]), a 30-min train ride away, the bus that would leave the earliest was that of Taiping. So off to Taiping I did.

2N/3D Expenses in Taiping: 169.7RM : PHP 1 920: USD40 

KL-Taiping Bus – 35 Sojourn Bed – 50
Fried Noodles+Coffee – 5 Bike Rental – 10
Sojourn Bed – 50 Laksa – 3.70
Clay Pot Dinner – 5.50 Iced Coffee – 1
Tea Ice (Iced Tea) – 1.40 Bus to Matang – 2.60
Dinner –  5.50


  • Walk around the massive and oh so lovely Taiping Lake Garden
  • Dine in a local night market. Food is very cheap!
  • Check out Matang, the fishing village thirty minutes away
  • Walk around. If you can find a bicycle rent, this city is very cyclable.


  • Sojourn Bed and Café’s dormitory looks like a capsule room. So if you are traveling solo, you may want to stay here. I was able to haggle the price of a private room to 50.
  • Across from Sojourn Bed and Café, there is a night food market locals frequent.
  • Walk around and enjoy the old buildings

Malaysia Budget Travel Guide | Cameron Highlands Travel Guide

Cameron Highlands draws a lot of travelers, mostly westerners. The place has Starbucks already, and I would not be surprised in the coming years, McDonalds would stand proud and mighty somewhere. But knowing us, Filipinos—the most western-culture-loving Asians, most of us would love seeing Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere. But I do not.

READ: Cameron Highlands Itinerary, Budget, and Accommodation

I prefer local markets, I mean real local markets—not the one put up for travelers’ consumption. But Cameron Highlands does not have that. I do not really mind. The main reason I was there was to see the wowing rolling hills of centuries-old tea plantation.

Cameron Highlands Itinerary, Budget, and Accommodation

2N/3D Expenses in Cameron Highlands  219.8RM – PHP 2 490 : USD53

Day 5 Day 6
Taiping-Ipoh Bus – 11.50 Cameron-KL Bus Ticket – 38.5
Ipoh-Cameron Highlands – 35 Butterfly Farm Entrance Fee – 5
Orchid Lodge (Dorm bed for two nights) – 51.00 Lunch – 6
Dinner – 5 Grocery – 1.8
Tour – 40 Noodles + egg – 4
Beer – 15 Coffee – 7.5



1. This place is primarily meant for nature lovers. A walk around the tea plantation, little treks to the little waterfalls and villages, strawberry picking, butterfly gardens ( I do not recommend this), and mostly communing with nature.

2. If you are not into nature, Penang might be a good alternative.

3. Bring a jacket. Or a thick cardigan, and clean socks for sleeping. It is brrrr there.

4. Public transportation is almost non-existent, so joining tours is more practical.

5. During peak seasons, ask the hostels’ person-in-charge about the bus schedules.

6. Book in advance especially if you are staying in a dorm. Cheap places are the to-go accommodations for budget travelers, so rooms fill up fast.

7. Check the local holidays in Malaysia, you might end up traveling with a throng of locals. It can be good or bad, depending on your preference. I do not mind traveling with the locals. I primarily travel to write.

8. There are banks and ATMS at Camellia 4 Building.


Malaysia Travel Guide | Things to Do Tioman Island

We mainly lounged by the beach, explored some hidden coves, human-talked tons of cats, pigged out, and sharpened our rusty diving skills a bit.Check out my Tioman Island Travel Guide.

Malaysia Travel Guide | Georgetown, Penang [To be written]

How about the Flights?

I was traveling for five weeks straight, so I used Air Asia’s ASEAN PASS. I bought the 10 flight credits for Php6, 200.00, which is valid for thirty days after the first booked flight. With the 10 flight credits, I was able to buy Cebu-Kuala Lumpur round trip ticket (6 points), Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok (1 way –  3 points), and Bangkok – Yangon ( 1 way – 1 point). I ditched my Bangkok – Yangon flight and just crossed the Maesot/Mwaddy border. You must book your flights fifteen days before your trip. Again, the 10-flight credits is valid for thirty days upon booking your first flight. Know your math.



  • If you are flying from one ASEAN country to the next, ASEAN PASS is a practical way, especially if your trip is nearing, and you have not booked your flights yet.
  • Book through Air Asia Malaysia, it is a bit cheaper. It is Php6, 200 in RM while it is Php7, 000 on their Philippine site
  • If you just have Malaysia in mind, always check for promo fares. And again, check Air Asia Malaysia, since some promo fares are only available on that site.

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Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Great tips! specially about avoiding places where they charge you more than what it should be, that’s really helpful and you are right sometimes joining other tourist will save you a lot.

  2. Joanna says:

    Your post reminded me of my week long trip to Malaysia. I chose to visit the Perhentian Islands and unfortunately, due to the bad weather, I had to skip Cameroon Highlands. I would have loved to get there. But I have to come back, as when I was in KL the Petronas Tower observation deck was closed for renovation and I didn’t have a chance to go up. Batu cave is a great day trip from KL, I remember all those crazy monkeys trying to steal everyone’s food, haha.

  3. Great advice! I’m in the middle of my trip to Malaysia right now and I’m spending about the same as you so its good to know I’m not spending too much 🙂
    I absolutely loved the Cameron Highlands and the tip about checking local Malaysian holidays is really good! I ended up in the Cameron Highlands right when all the local tourists were there which ended up being really nice because we got some great advice on where to go next in Malaysia from Malaysians!

  4. Sharon says:

    Wow! What a great resource you have here! Been in love with Malaysia since day 1 of our visit. Their beaches and rich culture is outstanding! Definitely coming back soon. So many more islands to explore. Wonderful post! Kudos!

  5. ozmoose says:

    Place #1 for me to stay in KL – Ibis Fraser Park. Ideal for 50+travelers. Once there, you will never, ever look back!

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